The Pirates are extremely high on Felipe Rivero, and there's talk he could close if Tony Watson falters or is traded. Acquired as part of the Mark Melancon deadline deal, the 26-year-old southpaw throws easy gas, averaging 95.8 mph with his heater. Oddly, Rivero's splits against left-handed hitters (.286/.387/.378) and righties (.203/.290/.337) go against conventional thinking. In any case, there's thought that he could fill an Andrew Miller-like role, throwing multiple high-leverage innings. Pittsburgh and pitching coach Ray Searage have found success molding relievers into closers, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Rivero follow in the footsteps of Joel Hanrahan and Jason Grilli. He will come fairly cheap on draft day, and should be able to offer solid ratios while owners hope for an opening in the ninth inning role.
Rivero has given up just one hit in seven scoreless spring innings. He's struck out nine batters without yielding a walk. The lefty remains behind Tony Watson and Daniel Hudson in the pecking order for saves, but he's making a case for the opportunity down the road. Watson will likely be traded at the deadline or leave via free agency following 2017. Hudson, one the other hand, is signed through 2018, so it remains to be seen which pitcher eventually takes over as closer. Juan Nicasio is also in the mix, though the team values his ability to pitch multiple innings.
Rivero struck out three batters in 1.1 innings against the Dodgers on Sunday. Since coming to the Pirates as part of the Mark Melancon trade, he hasn't allowed an earned run in seven outings covering seven innings. Rivero has fanned 13 batters over the stretch, showing promise that a late-inning role could be on the horizon.
Rivero made his Pittsburgh debut Sunday, allowing one hit and one walk in a scoreless relief inning. He struck out two batters. The hard-throwing lefty will look to add to his 16 holds with the Bucs, pitching mostly in the seventh inning and occasionally in the eighth. GM Neal Huntington mentioned his potential to close down the road, but that won't likely happen (barring injury) with Tony Watson under team control in 2017.
Rivero was traded to the Pirates on Saturday along with Taylor Hearn in exchange for Mark Melancon, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The 25-year-old Rivero posted a 4.53 ERA in 47 appearances out of the Nationals' bullpen this season, but the peripherals suggest he's pitched far better than that figure would indicate, with his FIP checking in at 3.26. He averages better than 95 mph with his fastball, throwing a slider and a changeup as its complements, and has seen a three percent increase in swinging strikes from a year ago (to 14.5 percent). Rivero won't close for Pittsburgh anytime soon, but the lefty figures to see some high-leverage work in front of Neftali Feliz and Tony Watson.
Rivero struck out two in a perfect eighth inning Tuesday to notch his 12th hold of the season in a win over the Phillies. He had some bumps earlier in May, but Rivero has now reeled off eight straight scoreless appearances with a 9:0 K:BB over 7.1 innings during that stretch. He's settled in as one of Jonathan Papelbon's primary setup men, and Rivero should be a solid source of holds moving forward.